The Fate of Rum Island Park — Come to BOCC Meeting March 21, 2019

Core group of Friends of Rum Island Park, talking business in the idyllic, pastoral setting of Rum Island Park, soon to undergo substantial renovation and construction. These members were joined by Scotti and Sarah Jay, frequent visitors from Valdosta, GA, shortly after the picture was taken.

Come to the Columbia County Board of County Commissioners meeting  at Columbia Co. School Board  School Board Administrative Complex
372 West Duval Street

Voice your opinion about the future of Rum Island Park

The weekly meeting of Friends of Rum Island Park had a special visitor, Commissioner Rocky Ford, District Commissioner of Columbia County.

We applaud Commissioner Ford for taking the time to visit and speak with members of the group.  The group was generally not happy though, to hear the news that Mr. Ford brought from the powers that be in the county.

The situation seems to be that the commissioners of  the county have pretty much planned out what is to happen to the park, and these plans do not reflect the wishes of the group most closely associated with the park.

District commissioner Rocky Ford came to “clean up any confusion” regarding the plans of the Columbia County Commissioners.

These include expanding the parking, and expanded spaces for boat trailers would necessitate the removal of several large trees which currently give welcome shade in the park.  Additionally, there is talk of new asphalt covering replacing some grass that is currently there.

Expanded parking will attract more park users, which are at the over-capacity mark at the moment.

Money may be spent on expensive toilets when clean Porta-Potties will do the job, as is the current situation.

Mr. Ford said he has requested a workshop, promised earlier by then-chair Murphy.  The workshop would allow users to have a voice in the planning, which is apparently not happening at the moment.

Local outfitters, mainstays and tax-generators of the community and the county, will arbitrarily be banned from the park, simply because of a few complaints by impatient people not wanting to wait their turn.

Rum Island has a public boat ramp, paid for by public tax dollars.  No one should be excluded from its use.  There is no difference between a boat trailer carrying 6 kayaks pulled by a plain white van and a trailer carrying 6 kayaks pulled by a white van with an outfitter’s name painted on it.  The plain white van likely may even have a different county’s license plates, which means they pay no tax dollars for that park and boat ramp.

Local outfitters bring business to the community and eliminate many would-be vehicles from adding to the parking congestion in the park.  Kayakers putting in at the Hwy 27 bridge will have to travel many miles and many hours to exit at the Hwy 47 bridge.

At any rate, the park is located in a wetlands area, so indicated by the fact that this construction, planned by the county, required a variance from the Swuannee River Water Management District.

What that tells us is that construction should be minimal or zero because existing laws prohibit it, which is a powerful argument against over-construction here and perhaps going for the Porta-Potties option.

What we have here is a situation that is ironic, ludicrous and lacking fairness.  For years and years the county basically ignored and abandoned Rum Island Park, and now all of a sudden they want to dump a lot of money on it, arbitrarily changing the nature of the park and disregarding the wishes of local residents and even excluding some of them.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-